From Humble Beginnings to Gourmet Delights: 5 Ways to Enjoy Oysters

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Oyster Recipes

Authored by National Geographic Traveller (UK), this piece delves into the culinary journey of oysters.

My initial oyster encounter was memorable, working under Gordon Ramsay. The shell’s stunning hue and the distinct, earthy ocean flavor were captivating. Historically viewed as common fare, oysters have evolved into a symbol of opulence, reflected in their price. This price tag is justified, considering their labor-intensive cultivation. Beyond their delicacy status, oysters are eco-champions, playing roles in carbon storage, water filtration, and coastal protection.

Raw oysters, with a hint of lemon, are my favorite. However, their versatility in cooking is remarkable — they can be fried, poached, or steamed. In my establishment, we incorporate them into a bordelaise sauce, a fusion of red wine and shallots, crowning it over a beef suet pudding. Alternatively, deep-fried oysters with tartare sauce make for an indulgent treat.

While some advocate for swallowing oysters whole, I find that approach lacks sensory enjoyment. I suggest chewing them to fully appreciate their creamy texture and rich flavor. With the native oyster season spanning from September to April, it’s the opportune time to source them from trusted coastal suppliers. As the chef-owner of The Ainsworth Collection in Cornwall, including venues like Paul Ainsworth at No6, Caffè Rojano, The Mariners, and Padstow Townhouse, I invite you to explore these oyster preparations:

  1. Beef Tartare Mix: Incorporate finely chopped oysters into a classic beef tartare for an extraordinary balance of meaty richness and oceanic zest.

  2. Oyster Mayonnaise: Elevate your homemade mayonnaise by blending in oysters for a burst of umami. This pairs exceptionally well with fried seafood, like prawns.

  3. Victorian Beef and Ale Pie: A nod to traditional English cuisine, adding oysters to this pie enriches its flavor and texture, reviving a classic recipe with a marine twist.

  4. Breadcrumbed Oysters: A delightful alternative to scampi, these breadcrumb-coated, fried oysters are a culinary delight, especially when accompanied by a flavorful dipping sauce or mayonnaise.

  5. Seafood Symphony Pie: Infuse your fish pie with oysters and their juices just before crowning it with creamy mashed potatoes. The oysters enhance the dish’s overall taste, perfectly mingling with other seafood ingredients.

Find this and more in Issue 22 (Winter 2023) of Food by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

For subscriptions to National Geographic Traveller (UK), available in select countries, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Oyster Recipes

What are some unique ways to cook oysters?

Oysters can be enjoyed in various ways beyond the traditional raw serving. They can be diced and mixed into beef tartare, added to homemade mayonnaise for an umami flavor, incorporated into a beef and ale pie for a traditional touch, breaded and fried as a scampi alternative, or folded into a fish pie mix for a seafood delight.

Why have oysters transformed from peasant food to luxury?

Oysters were once seen as common fare but have evolved into a luxury item due to changes in perception and price. This shift is partly attributed to the labor-intensive process of cultivating oysters, which contributes to their higher cost.

What makes oysters a sustainable seafood choice?

Oysters are considered one of the most sustainable forms of seafood because they help in storing carbon, filtering water, and protecting coastlines. These environmental benefits, along with their cultivation methods, make them a responsible seafood choice.

Is it better to swallow or chew oysters?

While some people believe that oysters should be swallowed whole, chewing them is recommended to fully appreciate their creamy texture and flavor. Chewing allows one to relish the unique taste and texture of oysters more completely.

What is the best season to enjoy native oysters?

The ideal season for enjoying native oysters is from September to April. During this period, oysters are at their best in terms of flavor and texture, making it the perfect time to purchase them from reputable suppliers, preferably those located along the coast.

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JennyT December 26, 2023 - 9:55 am

wow, I never knew oysters could be used in so many dishes, always thought they’re just eaten raw, great article!

GregH December 26, 2023 - 11:21 am

interesting read, but i’m still not convinced about the sustainability part, need to do more reseach on that, any suggestions on where to start?

Mike87 December 26, 2023 - 9:43 pm

I’ve tried the beef tartare with oysters at Ainsworth’s restaurant, it’s absolutely amazing! Definetly worth a try.

Sarah_foodie December 27, 2023 - 8:06 am

Always thought oysters were overrated but this article makes me wanna try them in different ways, especially in that fish pie recipe, sounds delish


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